Emilie M. Townes
Dean of the Divinity School
E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society
The Rev. Dr. Emilie M. Townes, a distinguished scholar and leader in theological education, is dean of Vanderbilt Divinity School. She is also the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society.
Townes' broad areas of expertise include Christian ethics, cultural theory and studies, postmodernism and social postmodernism. She has been a pioneering scholar in womanist theology, a field of studies in which the historic and current insights of African American women are brought into critical engagement with the traditions of Christian theology. Townes has a strong interest in thinking critically about womanist perspectives on issues such as health care, economic justice, poetry and literary theory.
She is the author of the groundbreaking book Womanist Ethics and the Cultural Production of Evil (Palgrave Macmillan Press, 2006). Other books include Breaking the Fine Rain of Death: African American Health Care and A Womanist Ethic of Care (Continuum, 1998), In a Blaze of Glory: Womanist Spirituality as Social Witness (Abingdon Press, 1995) and Womanist Justice, Womanist Hope (Scholars Press, 1993). She co-edited Womanist Theological Ethics: A Reader (Westminster John Knox Press, 2011) with Katie Geneva Cannon and Angela D. Simms. In addition, Religion, Health, and Healing in African American Life (Praeger, 2008) was co-edited by Townes with Stephanie Y. Mitchem.
Jan Etienne is Chair of the Womanism, Activism and Higher Education Research Network in the Department of Geography, School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London. She is a graduate of the School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol, and author of: Learning in Womanist Ways: Narratives of first-generation African Caribbean women (2016) UCL/IOE Trentham Press. Other recent publications include: ‘Lifelong learning in later years: Choices and constraints for older women’ (2011). In Jackson et al. (eds) Gendered Choices: Learning, work, identities in lifelong learning, Kluwer Academic Press and: ‘Beyond the home: Informal learning and community practice for older women’ (2010). In Jackson, S. (ed.) Innovations in Lifelong Learning: Critical perspectives on diversity, participation and vocational learning, Abingdon, Routledge.
Etienne, J (2019) (Ed) Crisis, Higher Education and Community: Politics of Representation and Black Women's Activism, UCL Press/Trentham Books
PI, Louisville Institute Faculty Research Project Grant, “This is my Calling: Womanist Ethnography and Black Women’s Vocation.”
Phillis Isabella Sheppard is a womanist practical theologian, psychoanalyst and is the Associate Professor of Religion, Psychology, and Culture at the Divinity School/Graduate Department of Religion of Vanderbilt University. Her areas of interest include the influence of womanisms in ethnography, pedagogy, public theology, and pastoral ethics. Prior to joining the Vanderbilt University faculty, Sheppard was Associate Professor of Pastoral Psychology and Theology at Boston University where she was also Co-director of the Center for Practical Theology, and Clinical Consultant with the Albert and Jessie Danielsen Institute.
She is the author of Self, Culture and Others in Womanist Practical Theology (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), and her current book project Tilling Sacred Ground: Interiority, Black Women, and Public Religion takes as its focus the intersection of black women’s interiority, and the sociality of religion. In it, she examines black women’s negotiation of race, gender, and sexuality in religious spaces and through religious practices. She argues for a heightened significance of the interchange between interiority and sociality. Sheppard is also editing a first of its kind volume, Womanist Pastoral and Public Theology: Placing Black Lives at the Center of Theology and Practice, and has a third monograph in development, Womanist Pastoral Ethics underway.
Arelis Benítez (Aly)
PhD Student | Religion, Psychology, and Culture | Vanderbilt University
Aly is the daughter of Mexican immigrant parents and is a first-generation Mexican-American. Her family’s transition into the United States as “undocumented immigrants” has shaped her spiritual and critical engagement of Divine presence in Latinx communal and individual life. Vocationally, Aly is a practicing healthcare chaplain who completed her Clinical Pastoral Education at UCLA Medical Center in 2012. Her research interests range in the areas of Pastoral Care and Practical Theology with a leaning towards Xicana feminism and Latinx Studies. Drawing from these scholarly intersections, she explores epistemological and methodological approached that may contribute towards the development of a Latina practical theology.
Yolanda Michelle Santiago Correa
Yolanda Michelle Santiago Correa is a doctoral student in the field of Religion and Culture at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from La Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico and an M.Div. from Duke Divinity School.
Born in Bayamón, Puerto Rico as the only child of two Methodist ministers, her journeys across houses, cities, schools and churches raised a curiosity that never seemed to cease. This, in combination with her history as an Afro-Boricua woman, her experience as a member of the diaspora and the realities that forced her to identify as a member of a Latinx community that both embraced and rejected her, pushed her to seek not only to answer some questions but to raise the voice of home; the colony that only gets remembered during summers and spring breaks. Her work seeks to explore Afro-Puertorriqueñidad and the relationship of that identity with religion, particularly Christianity. What does it mean to accept “Africanity” in a colonial nation under the power of the United States of America, a white dominated empire? How do we think of “darker” Latinxs and their experience of colorism not only in society but in the particular culture of the Church? How do we reconcile the imperial history of Christianity and the colonial history of Puerto Rico in the bodies of non-white Puerto Ricans? How do black and brown bodies move in these spaces? How are black and brown bodies defined? How is God defined in light of this history? Why is blackness/“Africanness” taboo? How is this heritage seemingly erased but silently present in our worship and beliefs? What is the place of syncretism? Why is lo negro sacredly prohibited?
Yolanda is a second-year doctoral scholar of the Hispanic Theological Initiative.
Alexandra Rosado-Román is a doctoral student in Ethics and Society and a Theology and Practice Fellow at Vanderbilt University. She holds an M.A. in Religion from El Seminario Evangélico de Puerto Rico, and an M.A. in Theological Studies with a major in Women, Gender, and Sexuality from Drew University. As an Afro-Puerto Rican woman, Alexandra is interested in discussing how the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and citizenship have worked to control the bodies of racialized women in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. Central to her academic approach are decolonial theory, feminist thought, and interreligious engagement. Her burning desire is to rearticulate ethical and moral socio-religious valuations around racialized women on the island and offer refreshed lenses that promote a clearer vision to march toward wholeness. Additionally, she has received the Patricia Wickham Prize for Feminist/Womanist Scholarship granted by Drew Theological School. A prize that acknowledges the overall excellence and creativity in feminist/womanist work.”
Professor of Theology and Anthropology, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
B.A. Western Maryland College
M.Div. Union Theological Seminary, N.Y.
Ph.D. American University, Washington D.C.
Dr. Linda Thomas believes that religion is one of the cardinal means through which people examine life’s big questions. As a constructive theologian and an anthropologist, what excites her most is learning about religious meaning cross-culturally. She loves learning about the thick layers of significance of people’s faith journeys, which include celebration and struggle in everyday life. Her work at LSTC is a laboratory for creative energy and significant intellectual work.
Dr. Thomas deeply and mindfully engages God’s presence in her life and work. She embodies a womanist perspective, which means she is anti-oppressionist, concerned about the vernacular, non-ideological, communitarian, and spiritual. The life and ministry of Jesus Christ guides her constructive theology and ethical commitment to vulnerable people created in God’s image across the globe.
Joe Ella Darby
Joe Ella Darby is a small town girl with a big city vision, journeying with God to become more of her authentic self! She’s a preacher's kid, the fourth oldest of 11 children, loves life, enjoys traveling, and journeying alongside others on their respective journeys towards authenticity, wholeness, and vulnerability. She holds a B.S. in Child Development and a M.S.S.W., both from the University of Tennessee. She is a M.Div. graduate of Columbia Theological Seminary (Decatur, GA) and currently serves at the Vacation Bible School Coordinator for the Sunday School Publishing Board in Nashville, TN. Ordained by Rev. Dr. Kelly M. Smith Jr., she serves at First Baptist Church, Capitol Hill as Assistant to the Pastor for Discipleship. Joe Ella founded a ministry, Women Pouring Into Women, that seeks to create space, through different mediums, that allows women to share their unique journeys with other women as a gift of inspiration and empowerment.